Variant Rule: Dungeon World in D&D 5e

After exploring numerous other TTRPGs, I found something I loved in Dungeon World, and I desired more to be added to it. (Checkout the Dungeon World SRD.) I had never reviewed the Dungeon World game system before but I must say, the interactive, player driven, and narrative form of the game captured my attention. I haven’t found a simple RPG system that truly suits my purposes as of yet and the time investment I have made in D&D 5e is enough to keep me from quickly turning and trying a new system. I would much rather merge two systems than jump ship.

Searching the Internet for Dungeon World/D&D 5e crossovers are sparse, and for good reason. The systems function drastically different.

Instead, I intend to take the advice of various folks to learn from Dungeon World’s game mastering and make D&D 5e better because of it. Porting the elements of D&D 5e to Dungeon World would be far more burdensome; Dungeon World is much easier to port elsewhere. With that, I propose the following basic rules for simple adjudication in a “Dungeon World”-esque style.

Making Moves

By the DM in Response to Dice Rolls

The DM will make a Move[1] whenever a player attempts a task that requires a dice roll to resolve but fails at it by certain degrees. If a player rolls anywhere from the DC±1, the player experiences a partial success[2] but the DM makes a Move. If a player fails a DC by 2–4, the player experiences partial failure. If the player fails by 5 or more, the DM makes a hard[3] Move. (These partial successes and failures would also follow in combat,[4] wherein the DC to be compared to the player’s role is the opponent’s AC.)

In Character Actions

This is more difficult. Classes in DW give players options for their characters when attempting an action. It may be possible to port some options over or add them to the main game, but at present, this may be more time consuming. It may be best to handle this as needed until something can be codified.

Fronts

Fronts appears to be more of a mindset about the types of Moves a DM will make in a given scenario; this appears to be more about how one prepares and sets up than changing game mechanics.

Experience

A big difference in DW over D&D 5e is that experience is earned through bonds that advance through the storytelling and role playing. This would be a relatively easy system to port over by replacing experience points altogether with the DW experience system. Much as the system of leveling up at predetermined times works in D&D 5e, which scraps the experience system, this system works to advance a character according to their work in the session. If the player plays according to their alignment, their bond, personality, ideal, and/or flaw, then they earn experience. (For this purpose, it may be necessary to add bonds as DW thinks of them.) If the player advances their bonds, then they gain experience.


  1. http://www.dungeonworldsrd.com/gamemastering/#Moves ↩︎

  2. The DW system utilizes a 2d6 rolling mechanic for resolving in-game actions with possibilities for failure. A success is considered any roll of 10+, a partial success is 7–9, and a failure is 6-. (Note that players still add bonuses to their rolls which makes 10+ more likely.) On a 10+, the player succeeds at the challenge without a penalty. On a 7–9, the player completes their task but with a penalty. On a 6-, the player fails forward and suffers a worse penalty. Examples of this in DW involve a player choosing between one of three negative options on a partial success, or having to take two or all three negative options on a failure. Here this also includes options for successes. A strong character who moves the heavy object might be given the choice on a partial success between one of three options for what to do with the object, while a full success allows for two or all of the options. ↩︎

  3. Hard here indicates the difficulty of the Move made by a DM. The Move is hard because it requires the players to respond in a game changing way. The DM may not be prepared for this and should be more willing or able to fly by the seat of his pants. The DM may find that his story/campaign/narrative does not follow the path he has laid out, but one concept of DW play is that the players’ actions direct the story, and the DM responds with Moves. ↩︎

  4. In DW, the DM never roles a die, he only makes Moves in response to player actions and dice rolls. In D&D 5e, this change would be fairly disruptive to normal game play. Instead, the use of AC as the determining value for whether the DM makes a move or not is more elegant. D&D 5e’s Action Economy does not equate to DW’s Moves. This system instead seeks to add the interactive and story-making components of the Moves to the D&D 5e system. ↩︎